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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

It's time to put Tibet on G8 agenda

June 18, 2010

Dermod Travis
June 17, 2010

Next week’s G8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario, is
a unique opportunity for world leaders to speak
with a single, resolute voice in support of the
Dalai Lama’s effort to seek a negotiated
settlement with the Chinese government; to push
for broader and more meaningful human-rights
protection in Tibet and China; and to encourage
sustainable development in the region.

While the challenges facing Tibetans are great,
continued support from Canada and other G8
members for the Dalai Lama’s "middle way"
approach has strengthened Tibetan resolve to work
toward a mutually beneficial solution with the
Chinese government that secures genuine autonomy
for the Tibetan people within the Chinese
constitution, based on the mutual benefit and
long-term interest of the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.

Indeed, since 2008, seven members of the G8 have
expressed support for the dialogue between the
Chinese government and representatives of the
Dalai Lama to resolve ongoing differences.

The cause of this peaceful struggle -- the full
expression of the Tibetan religious, cultural,
and linguistic identity within China -- is
internationally acknowledged as the only way to
achieve stability across Tibet.

With this overwhelming backing, the G8 summit is
truly the time to rally these voices into common
cause to encourage the Chinese government to
seize the chance to reach a peaceful solution to the Tibet issue.

In addition to advancing the dialogue, there are
a number of other measures that can be pursued
within the G8 context in order to provide tangible benefits for Tibetans.

It’s essential that G8 leaders make an
unequivocal representation to President Hu Jintao
over China’s lack of fair judicial process,
religious repression, and continued human-rights
abuses against Tibetan and Chinese citizens alike.

Collective pressure encouraging reform to China’s
policies of economic development and social
services in Tibet, and an offer of assistance in
developing appropriate implementing strategies,
could also do much to address legitimate Tibetan
grievances and aid in alleviating Tibet’s widespread poverty.

While the Chinese government has invested
billions into development and subsidies in Tibet,
few of these projects have raised the standard of
living for most Tibetans. This is due to the
nature of development projects in Tibet, which
are often designed to benefit outside investors and migrants.

What is needed is meaningful consultation in
which Tibetans are given the necessary
information, including all assessment reports, to
reach an informed opinion as to whether a project is in their best interests.

Consultations should engage all stakeholders.
Citizens should be free to express their dissent
free from coercion, and with the free, prior, and
informed consent to proceed resting with the Tibetan people themselves.

Also neglected in China’s development plans for
Tibet have been improvements in basic social
services -- most visible the lack of adequate and
accessible health care. Health-care costs are
prohibitively expensive for most Tibetans. This
is compounded by a lack of nurses and doctors
capable of speaking Tibetan to their patients.

G8 members can respond by assisting in providing
professional training for Tibetans in the
health-care field and pressing the Chinese
government to subsidize health-care costs.

Training for Tibetan professionals should include
teacher training, but any investment in education
in Tibet must be wedded to the broad-based
strengthening of Tibetan rural communities,
including the provision of local infrastructure
such as electricity, running water, and telephone services.

Innovative education models have demonstrated
that when a commitment to Tibetan cultural
traditions and Tibetan language use exists,
Tibetan parents and teachers will become
motivated and students will perform well above expectation.

Finally, Tibet -- which China considers its
"number one water tower" --provides water to 10
downstream nations. Tibet is indispensable to
China’s ability to successfully implement global climate-change solutions.

G8 leaders should urge China to undertake
international assessments of changes in the
Tibetan Plateau’s ecosystems, water resources,
and land use policies; ensure the participation
of Tibetans in decision-making and management of
the area’s natural resources; and encourage
multilateral collaborative decision-making
regarding the plateau’s water resources,
including all regional and local stakeholders.

It’s time to move beyond the traditional
statements of support for Tibet that countless
countries have made. In order to achieve real
progress, Tibet must be made a substantive and
results-oriented part of the peace and security
agenda at the G8 to bring about lasting solutions
to these issues upon which the very existence and
identity of the Tibetan people depend.

* Dermod Travis is the executive director of the Canada Tibet Committee.
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